A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1907.
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On the south, Ditton Brook and the low-lying marshy ground along it must once have formed a definite physical boundary for the township. In the east-central portion is Ditton village, with Ditchfield to the west and Hough Green to the north. The eastern and northern boundaries are formed in great measure by two small brooks, Moss Brook dividing Ditton from Widnes, and what was formerly called Halliwell Brook from Cronton.
The country is flat and divided into pastures and arable fields where wheat and oats are generally grown on a clay soil. There are but few trees and scanty hedges, for the locality is too close to the manufacturing town of Widnes to escape the inevitable effects of smoke and chemical fumes. Around Hough Green the lower mottled sandstone of the bunter series occurs, elsewhere the pebble beds of this series of the new red sandstone. By Ditton Brook and on the Marsh there is a large area covered by alluvial deposits.
The area measures 1,898 acres. (fn. 1)
The road from Tarbock to Appleton passes eastwardly through the village, where it is joined by others from Cronton and Hale. The Garston and Widnes road crosses the southern corner of the township. The Cheshire Lines Committee's railway from Liverpool to Manchester crosses the northern part, with a station (Hough Green) near Ditchfield; at this point a line, passing through Ditton village, branches off to Widnes. The London and North Western line from Liverpool to Warrington crosses the southern corner, with a station (Ditton Junction) just upon the boundary of Halewood.
The first distinct record of DITTON is in the Pipe Roll of 1194, when Richard de Ditton paid 20s. as his fine for having the king's good will after participating in the rebellion of John, count of Mortain. (fn. 2) The next entries are in the roll of 1201–2, when Richard, Philip, and Adam de Ditton paid their levies to a scutage; (fn. 3) and at the same time Philip de Ditton paid 12d. and Richard son of Martin 3s., due upon a tallage. (fn. 4) Two years later Richard son of Martin paid half a mark, and the same was contributed jointly by Adam, Philip, and Henry. (fn. 5)
The manor, assessed as a plough-land and held in thegnage, had therefore been divided early into several portions, the shares being thus described in 1212: 'Richard son of Martin holds half a ploughland and pays therefor 10s. of farm; Richard son of Outi holds of him two oxgangs of land by 5s., and Ralph one oxgang of land by 2s. 6d. Adam, Robert, Vincent, and Henry de Ditton hold half a ploughland for 10s. of farm.' (fn. 6) The descent of the senior moiety can be given only imperfectly; half of it at the end of the fourteenth century passed to a branch of the Tyldesleys by marriage. The part of this moiety held by Richard son of Outi descended to the Ditchfields, but nothing is clear as to the fate of that held by Ralph. The other moiety, after being much subdivided, became consolidated into two shares, of which the principal was again divided soon after 1400 by the marriage of the coheirs with Henry Blundell of Little Crosby and Richard Dawne, while the smaller share passed by marriage to the Coney family, by whom it seems to have been sold to the Blundells. (fn. 7) This brief summary may assist in following the more detailed account. (fn. 8)
I. The principal moiety appears to have descended from the Richard son of Martin of 1212 to a son Robert, (fn. 9) whose son 'John son of Robert de Ditton' was in possession for a very long period, probably from about 1250 to 1310. (fn. 10) The next step in the succession is uncertain. Robert the clerk appears to have followed; probably he was a younger son of John. (fn. 11) Then another John son of Robert de Ditton was the holder for about thirty years, dying in October, 1350. (fn. 12) His son Robert, as late as 1346, married Cecily daughter of Alan de Eltonhead, who afterwards married Henry Walsh, (fn. 13) and left two daughters as coheirs, Alice and Emma. (fn. 14) The former married Henry son of Ralph de Tyldesley; (fn. 15) what became of the latter is not ascertained; perhaps she married the Matthew de Tyldesley who witnessed many deeds of the time. (fn. 16)
Henry and Alice had a son Ralph who inherited their half of this moiety, and was succeeded by a son Henry. (fn. 17) The latter in turn was followed by Hugh Tyldesley, (fn. 18) from whom the descent is obscure until the time of Henry VIII, when Richard Tyldesley was in possession. (fn. 19) Various disputes followed his death, (fn. 20) and though a Tyldesley was reckoned among the freeholders of Ditton in 1600, (fn. 21) the name disappears, and the inheritance was probably sold. In 1750 Tyldesley Hall changed hands again, the vendors being the daughters and heirs of John Hurst of Scholes, near Prescot. It was soon afterwards held by Henry Pippard, and has descended with the Blundell of Crosby estate. (fn. 22)
In 1823 Ditton House was owned by John Watkins, who claimed the lordship of the manor, but this was not acknowledged. (fn. 23)
II. From the account of 1323 it may be gathered that the descendant of Henry son of Ralph held a twelfth of the manor, and the Fish or Fisher family another twelfth, indicating that a third part of this moiety had been divided between coheiresses. (fn. 24) Another third—i.e. a sixth of the whole manor— was held by the heir of the Henry de Ditton of 1212; (fn. 25) while the other third was held in two unequal parts—a ninth and an eighteenth—by families surnamed Ditton and Smith. (fn. 26)
Henry de Ditton son of Ralph was living about 1250. He had a grant of land from Richard son of Philip de Ditton, (fn. 27) and himself granted land in Thelisacre to Richard son of Robert. (fn. 28) He had two sons, John and William; (fn. 29) the former succeeded, and was followed by his son John, sometimes described as John son of John son of Henry, and at other times more shortly as John Henryson. (fn. 30) He had a son Henry and a daughter Alice. (fn. 31) Henry in 1348 married Joan daughter of John son of Robert, lord of the other moiety of Ditton, (fn. 32) and succeeded his father about two years later, dying in or before 1370. (fn. 33) He appears to have prospered, and added to his patrimony the twelfth part of the manor held by the Fish family, and the sixth part held by the descendants of Henry son of Philip. (fn. 34) His daughter and heir Margery married Richard son of Henry de Rixton, (fn. 35) and they in turn were succeeded by two daughters. (fn. 36) Joan married Henry son of Nicholas Blundell of Little Crosby, whose descendants have retained possession to the present time; (fn. 37) and Elizabeth married Richard son of Richard Dawne or Done of Crowton and seems to have had a son Thomas, living in 1481, but the subsequent history of this portion is unknown. (fn. 38)
Hugh Fish, contemporary with the Ralph father of Henry, and probably son of another Hugh, (fn. 39) had two sons, Richard and Robert. (fn. 40) The former succeeded, and was in turn followed by his son Richard, (fn. 41) who died about 1328, being succeeded by a son Hugh, living in 1347. (fn. 42) Hugh had a son Robert, (fn. 43) who appears to have sold his patrimony to John Henryson or his son Henry. (fn. 44)
The share of Henry son of Philip (fn. 45) seems to have descended intact to his son Adam, who was living in 1246, (fn. 46) and to his grandson Stephen, (fn. 47) who held it for about fifty years, 1265–1315 being the approximate dates. (fn. 48) Stephen was twice married, Maud and Margery being the names of his wives, (fn. 49) and several children are named—Thomas, his heir; Stephen, Adam, Roger, Margery, and Agnes. (fn. 50) Thomas, like his father, held this share of the manor for about fifty years, being mentioned as late as 1364. (fn. 51) He had issue, but, as already stated, appears to have sold or mortgaged the estate to Henry de Ditton about 1350.
The origin of the share held by Richard the Smith of Ditton is unknown; (fn. 52) he was succeeded before 1318 (fn. 53) by his son Thomas, who was living in 1347, and had a son Henry, (fn. 54) but appears to have sold his eighteenth part of the manor to Hugh son of Robert de Ditton. (fn. 55) The Smith family, however, continued here for some time longer. (fn. 56)
The Robert de Ditton who held a ninth of the manor in 1323 was son of a Richard son of Adam and Wimark. (fn. 57) It does not appear likely, however, that this was Richard son of the Adam living in 1201 and 1212; Adam and Richard were favourite names in the Ditton families. (fn. 58) Robert was succeeded in 1324–5 by his son Roger, aged nineteen, (fn. 59) and on his death by another son, Hugh, who, as stated above, acquired the inheritance of the Smith family, thus making his share a sixth. (fn. 60) He had a son Robert, (fn. 61) who was followed by his son Alan. (fn. 62) The succession here becomes uncertain. (fn. 63) An Alan Ditton was living in 1481; (fn. 64) probably it was his son Robert who was married as early as 1442–3 to Janet, daughter of Richard Tarleton. (fn. 65) Robert Ditton had two daughters, Margaret, who married a Coney, and Emmota, who married Thomas Shaw. (fn. 66)
Margaret Coney was succeeded by her son William, (fn. 67) and grandson Robert. (fn. 68) This last was succeeded by Henry Coney, who died in 1569, leaving a son Henry, under age. (fn. 69) Henry the younger died in 1598, his brother Robert being his heir; (fn. 70) and Robert, described as of Knowsley, dying shortly afterwards, left the inheritance to his brother William, of Ford in Bedfordshire. (fn. 71) In some manner not quite clear the 'hall of Coney' and the 'quarter' of the manor held with it, by the agency of John Ogle of Whiston, passed to William Coney of Ditton, described as a son of Henry Coney. (fn. 72) William Coney held it in 1621, (fn. 73) but appears to have sold it to the Blundells of Crosby, whose holding thus became a quarter of the whole manor; it is now described as a moiety, having, as above stated, been increased by other purchases.
The fate of the remainder is unknown. There was about 1820 no acknowledged lord of the manor. The cowgates on the marsh were merged in the general enclosure. There were 'no courts, no perambulation, no fishery, no wrecks.' (fn. 74)
Though many of the deeds of DITCHFIELD have been preserved by Kuerden, (fn. 75) a satisfactory descent cannot be made out. It appears certain that the estate was the two oxgangs of land which in 1212 were held of Richard de Ditton by Richard son of Outi. From Richard the succession was probably by his son Robert (fn. 76) and grandson Richard to the latter's sons Roger and John. (fn. 77) Roger son of Richard and Roger de Ditchfield were witnesses to charters of about the same time, so that it appears at least probable that these were merely different names for the same person. (fn. 78)
Roger de Ditchfield was followed by a John de Ditchfield, probably his son, witness to numerous local charters from about 1310 until his death in 1346 or 1347. (fn. 79) His son and heir Thomas succeeded, being mentioned for about three years. (fn. 80) The record of his dispute with the superior lord, John de Ditton, gives the first indication of the portion of the manor held by this family. John de Ditton was the representative of the Richard son of Martin of 1212, and in 1347 he complained that Thomas, son and heir of John de Ditchfield—'in mercy for many defaults'—had, though a minor and in ward, refused a suitable marriage which John as superior lord had offered, namely Katherine the daughter of John del Hey or Elizabeth daughter of Elizabeth de Prescot, and had married Margaret daughter of Adam de Singleton, whereby the plaintiff had suffered a loss of £200. It was found that Thomas held by knight's service and by a rent of 5s. a year—the service of Richard son of Outi in 1212—paying 10s. to the scutage of 40s.; the jury fixed the value of the marriage at 40 marks, and it was decided that John de Ditton should recover double this sum. (fn. 81)
To Thomas succeeded Henry de Ditchfield, probably his brother, (fn. 82) who about 1400 was followed by his son, another Henry. (fn. 83) The latter had several children—William, John, Joan, and Emmota. (fn. 84) William, the heir, was in 1438 contracted in marriage to Katherine daughter of Nicholas Risley; (fn. 85) he was living in 1482, (fn. 86) and was succeeded by his son Henry, mentioned in 1493. (fn. 87) After this Henry's death, the inheritance passed to his nephew Thomas, (fn. 88) son of Sir John de Ditchfield, (fn. 89) and John Ditchfield his son followed him. (fn. 90) Dying in August, 1545, he was succeeded by his son Hamlet, then thirty-four years of age, (fn. 91) who had a son William and a grandson John, living in 1613. (fn. 92) John's son Edward, born about 1593, had an only daughter and heir Elizabeth, (fn. 93) who married John Hoghton of Park Hall in Charnock Richard, having previously been the wife of John Lancaster of Rainhill; the inheritance passed to her children by the former union, the eldest of whom, William, was aged five in 1664. The Hoghtons afterwards inherited Thurnham and took the name of Dalton. They seem to have parted with Ditchfield late in the eighteenth century. (fn. 94) It was acquired by Thomas Shaw, (fn. 95) and now is owned by his daughter Mrs. James R. Mellor.
The Norrises of Speke had an estate here from early times connected with the grant of the mill on Ditton pool made by Henry de Walton. (fn. 96) Land was acquired in Ditton for the convenience of the mill, (fn. 97) and this appears to have been the holding of the family down to 1566, when Edward Norris purchased the lands of William Nicholasson. (fn. 98)
Several other families had lands in Ditton. (fn. 99) The local evidences contain a number of the field names as they existed in the fourteenth century, many of which will be found in the notes. (fn. 100)
The landowners contributing to the subsidy in 1628 were, besides those already mentioned, Alexander Rigby, Nicholas Croft, and Ellen Denton; the lastnamed paid double as a convicted recusant. (fn. 101) In 1666 the principal houses in the hearth-tax list were those of John Hoghton and Thethar Lathom, both apparently non-resident. (fn. 102) Margaret widow of James Hoghton, described as of Halewood, registered a small estate here in 1717. (fn. 103) The principal landowners in 1785 were Nicholas Blundell, — Watkins, and John Shaw. (fn. 104) About 1820 they were William Blundell, John Watkins, and — Shaw of Everton. (fn. 105)
The Society of Friends have a charity estate. (fn. 106)
An ecclesiastical parish has been formed here, the church of St. Michael having been built in 1871, and a district assigned in 1875. (fn. 107) It is in the gift of trustees.
The first building for Roman Catholic worship (fn. 108) was a school erected in 1860 by the Marchioness StapletonBretherton, who when the German Jesuits (fn. 109) were exiled gave them the Hall, formerly called the Grove, in 1872, and afterwards built the church of St. Michael, opened in 1878. These Jesuits left Ditton in 1895; for a time the church remained in charge of the English Jesuits, but has now been given up to the secular clergy. The estate has been sold to the Ditton Land Company. (fn. 110) The house is used by the Sisters of Nazareth as a boys' home.